OPINION

Monthly Archives: APRIL 2016


Stand Up India, after Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Digital India. Who is accountable?
22.04.16 - preet k s bedi
Stand Up India, after Swachh Bharat, Make in India, Digital India. Who is accountable?



Even his worst critics will not accuse Modi of not having tried hard; some say he works for over 18 hours a day. And yet, from the aam aadmi to the captains of industry, most are dissatisfied with the quality and speed of change. While we could quibble about his vision or strategy, there is a bigger concern. 
 
If someone like Modi has not been able to re-energize the system, is there really hope for any sort of radical change? 
 
The ubiquitous ‘system’ created by the British to perpetuate their rule has stood its ground unchanged for over 70 years. The need for control, the love of process and disdain for result, the titles and the acronyms, the formality and the language and even the same green paper with a vertical margin. 
 
During this period, the world outside has transformed many times over. Such is the level of integration today that deficient rainfall in Latin America can raise inflation in India, a profligate Greece can sink Europe and a humble consumer has the power to destroy a major global brand. This has introduced unprecedented complexity into decision-making often involving new stake-holders who would not even have existed a few years ago. 
 
So that is what it is, a completely static system attempting to negotiate a rapidly changing environment. The result is a paralysis in decision-making often with utter disregard for the big picture. The challenge lies in finding a structural and systemic solution to end this mismatch. 
 
The problem is not unique to governments. Large global corporations, often with budgets bigger than those of many countries face the same problem. How do they tackle it? Is there a lesson to be learnt?
 
Across the world, traditional, silo-based structures are being replaced with multi-discipline, geography independent, virtual or real teams. Cross reporting and multiple reporting, once seen as anathema to good management are now seen to be desirable. As are team goals and team assessment. Forcing individuals to get rid of their ‘not invented here’ thinking and focus less on ego and more on the common objective.
 
While corporate best practices recommend creating multi-disciplinary teams around strategic objectives, governments traditionally do exactly the opposite. They disaggregate accountability. So one person is tasked to buy marble, another to do the carving and a third to complete the structure. But no one person is accountable for building the Taj. 
 
The PM launches Swachh Bharat.  
 
The list of stakeholders includes state governments, municipalities, finance ministries, procurement agencies and urban and rural development ministries across 30 states. In some states there could be the need for new investments in technology or simply the need for space to create landfills etc. Each issue creates a new set of stake holders both at the center and the states. 
 
The PM launches ‘Make in India. 
 
Once the land is acquired, those uprooted have to be rehabilitated. Some have to be provided jobs. This would involve the local state governments and the Rural Development ministry at the center. Then the highways and roads have to be built. And provision of power, water and band-width for which even the private sector may need to be involved. The chain of departments and officials that are involved is endless. 
 
Likewise the ‘Digital India’ program. 
 
When analyzed, simple slogans and rallying call by the PM start looking like a mammoth PERT exercises with ramifications across thousands of touch-points across the country. None of these are simple linear programs that can be handed over to any single ministry.
 
So when responsibilities are so fragmented, who exactly is accountable for success or failure? Unfortunately no one. And thereby hangs a tale.
 
Swachh Bharat, Digital India and Make in India are smart, strategic and sophisticated concepts. They recognize the need for a government to deliver solutions beyond infrastructure. This is a huge leap forward. The government is acknowledging that its job is to provide education and not schools, cleanliness and not just garbage bins. And so on.
 
In a federal structure where last mile delivery of services may depend on various elected or unelected bodies, the Prime Minister’s willingness to stick his neck out and make the promise is a great beginning for which he must be commended. 
 
The problem, however, is that the PM himself has not realized how much of a game-changer these ideas are. They were born as slogans and will probably die as such. Because the PM is attempting to use the same tired, existing infrastructure to implement it. A sure recipe for failure. And therein lies the challenge. 
 
The government needs to devise a new delivery mechanism which can cut through the sloth of officialdom and ensure effective quality implementation for these initiatives to deliver results. 
 
So is an alternative possible? Yes, but it requires a commitment to first break the egg before attempting the omelette.
 
First, divide the business of governance into two levels, the Missions and the Ministries. 
 
The Missions, as the name suggests, are the ideals that the government is committed to delivering. What Directive Principles are to the country, the Missions are to the government. They will always be a reflection of a government’s commitments. For instance, if the government believes that the need is jobs, a ‘Jobs for All’ Mission will work on it, dovetailing efforts of the Industries, Commerce, Telecom and Finance or other ministries which can influence job creation. Likewise ‘Swachh Bharat, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India.’ 
 
On the other hand the Ministries are the enablers. They work, pretty much as they are doing now, to ensure that the dreams enunciated by the Missions are met. 
 
Second, acknowledge that for any initiative to be successful, there must be someone who ‘owns’ it and whose personal success or failure is linked with it. 
 
Such a person must not just be titular head but must also have the authority to take appropriate decisions in pursuance of the Mission. And so will need to be of a level above other Cabinet Ministers. But whatever his or her titular seniority, the PM must ensure that his de facto status
is higher than other Ministers. If it is seen as a mere coordination job, the entire purpose is defeated. 
 
Third, for the purpose of the Mission, officials across ministries and departments concerned with execution of the Mission will dual-report to both their own ministries as well as the Mission Owner. 
 
Job profile of the Mission Owner?
 
He or she needs to convert the government’s vision into a series of actionable points, assess the opportunities, possibilities and the constraints, set targets, provide monetary and technical support where needed, create a delivery system that does not fall between the tracks and co-opt his team from various concerned ministries and departments.
 
Not every ministers can hope to be a Mission Owner one day. Only the ones who have significant project implementation experience. Since the role requires the power of persuasion the typical Mission Owner should ideally be well networked across parties. And since the job requires intensive travel across states to review performance and share feedback, the Mission Owner must be young and energetic. In the current government only Suresh
Prabhu and Parrikar would fit the bill. If he hadn’t been involved in various scandals, Gadkari would also have qualified
 
The Mission Owner will typically have a small team mainly for the planning and oversight functions. The intention would be to have him work with existing resources rather than hiring new set of people. And therefore he or she will be dependent on people chosen by him from the concerned ministries.
 
Should the Mission Owners be part of the PMO? Ideally yes. But if they are made a part of the PMO, there would be far too much of an outcry about centralization of power and that may derail the entire process. So it is best the Mission Owners are not integrated into the PMO. But yes, they must work very closely with the PMO.
 
And what would they be called? Maybe simply Senior Ministers with Cabinet rank.
 
Though I am tempted to suggest Jan Sevaks. If the PM is Pratham Sevak, then people engaged in providing solutions to the people should be called Jan Sevaks. 
 
But the nomenclature is unimportant. The fact that the government has chosen to take an additional step forward is.




[home] 1-4 of 4


Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 



The decline of Punjab: Blame it on its past and present rulers
21.04.16 - Mohan Guruswamy
The decline of Punjab: Blame it on its past and present rulers



Mohan Guruswamy (pictured below), Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi, has touched the raw nerve of Punjab in his article which appeared in Scroll.in on April 20, 2016. We are reproducing the same in toto with the hope that there will be a healthy and serious debate in Punjab's intellectual, social and political circles on the points raised in the article.
 
The Rs 20,000 crore-foodgrain scam is just another step downhill for the state that was once projected as a role model.
 
There was a time when Punjab was India’s model state. It was number one in almost every field. But for several decades now, it has been saddled with corrupt and inept governments. From being a role model for other states, Punjab has now become a disaster zone and a national burden. Now the Badal family-headed Akali Dal, ruling the state in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, has taken bad governance to a new level.
 
Punjab's rulers have done better than many of our industrialists in extracting funds from our Public Sector Banks by borrowing for its food purchase scheme against non-existent stocks, or by disposing off hypothecated stocks. The Reserve Bank of India has ordered lending banks to declare the advances as Non-Performing Assets. It is learnt that about Rs 20,000 crore worth of foodgrain has gone missing from its stocks. They either were never there, or hypothecated stocks were disposed of, or both. The hole is huge and the banks will be unable to lend more money to the Punjab government.
 
Missing foodgrain
 
So who comes to its rescue? It is the friendly Central government, which is now going to give it cash credit of Rs 20,000 crore so that food purchases can go on as usual. It was only last week that the Supreme Court had to tersely order the Central government to immediately release budgeted Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment scheme funds for famine relief works in acutely drought-hit regions like Marathwada in Maharashtra. 
 
Consequently, the Centre reluctantly released Rs 12,000 crore. Maharashtra has a BJP-led government, but unlike Punjab it doesn't have elections soon. So BJP ministers like Eknath Khadse can use scarce water to bind the dust down at helipads and Pankaja Munde – bejeweled hands and all – can take selfies at drought relief works in Latur. But in Punjab, the viability of the Punjab ruling elite's business is seriously challenged and the rejected MP aspirant from Amritsar, who is now the finance minister, responded with alacrity to help his friends tide over a tight spot.
 
Despite this, the Punjab Civil Supplies and Food Minister, Adarsh Prakash Singh Kairon, a man with a prominent lineage, has the temerity to say: "The food purchase scheme is not a profitable proposition. Punjab is mainly doing it in the national interest.”

The notion that Punjab feeds India is quite absurd now. India has for a few decades now produced much more foodgrain than it needs. Since 1991, India has exported foodgrain worth an average of Rs 6,000 crore every year, and last year this figure touched Rs 27,000 crore. The production has been in the vicinity of 260 million tonnes during the past three years, despite drought. India has food reserves of 49 million tonnes worth Rs 50,000 crore, which is twice more than is needed.
 
Reality check
 
So it is actually the other way around. The rest of India supports Punjab with this absurd Minimum Support Price scheme, which is actually an above-the-market price scheme. This combined with the Public Distribution System of low-priced cereals is actually a gigantic subsidy scheme. The total subsidies allocation in the 2016 budget is Rs 250,433 crore, of which more than half goes towards food subsidy, and another quarter goes for fertiliser subsidy. The bulk of the procurement accrues in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This means the bulk of the minimum support price subsidy accumulates here.
 
There is no doubt that Punjab is a major foodgrain production centre, but the notion that it feeds India is quite exaggerated. In 2015, the total national foodgrain production was 264 million tonnes of which Punjab produced 27.4 million tonnes or about 10%. Admittedly, Punjab’s productivity is much higher than the rest of the country’s as it accounts for only about 5% of the 54 million hectares of irrigated farmland.
 
The claims of the Punjab government too foster this fiction. Its website claims:
 
"It [Punjab] contributes nearly two-thirds to the total production of food grains and a third of milk production in the country. It is the leading producer of wheat, thereby contributing to the national food security. Even though Punjabis account for less than 2.5% of the Indian population, they are one of the most prosperous races in India. Their per capita income is twice the national average.”
 
The national per capita income at current prices is Rs 74,000 and Punjab’s is Rs 92,000. Yet most of us have internalised the long gone story of Punjab standing between India and starvation, and Punjab being the most prosperous state in the country.
 
Central bounty
 
God and this country have both been good to Punjab. Today, 85.2% of all land in Punjab is arable, and 89.7% of it has perennial irrigation. More than half of this is due to the huge central government projects – Bhakra Nangal being the most notable among them. The British, in their quest for land revenue, rightly chose Punjab for special attention. They invested in its irrigation. But after 1947 this trend was accelerated. In 1955, the total national outlay for irrigation was Rs 29,106 lakh. Of this Punjab got Rs 10,952 lakh or 37.6%. In contrast, Bihar got only Rs 1,323 lakh, which is only 4.5% of the irrigation outlay. The Bhakra Nangal dam, one of Jawaharlal Nehru’s grandest temples of modern India, planned with an outlay of Rs 7,750 lakh, alone irrigates 1.44 million hectares, or about 40%, of Punjab’s net irrigated area. The consequences of this bounty are manifold. Punjab surged ahead.
 
The spectrum of regional inequalities in India is a very wide one. Punjab and Bihar represent the two ends of the wide spectrum. Though this might even have been the case historically, a study of state GDPs in the decades after independence reveals that the width of the spectrum has only widened. In 1965 Punjab’s per capita income was Rs 562 and was 1.7 times that of Bihar’s Rs 332. Punjab now has a per capita income of Rs 92,000 and Bihar Rs 31,000, or about 3:1. But other changes have also set in. Once India’s most prosperous state, it now lags behind Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and Telangana, and is about par with the neighboring hill state of Himachal Pradesh.
 
Punjab has all the bounties nature can give, and it has had more than its rightful share of central government assistance, not just in terms of food procurement and subsidies but also by way of employment. Punjab has benefited by a disproportionately large recruitment into the armed and paramilitary forces giving most rural families a second stream of income. Each year about 60,000 Punjabi officers and men retire from the armed forces, and over a million now draw pensions. Yet Punjab is afflicted with a severe blight. A study by the department of Social Security Development of Women and Children found that 67% households in Punjab have at least one person addicted to drugs. Yet another study by the Narcotics Bureau discovered that almost 40% of men in Punjab are addicted to drugs.
 
So what has brought Punjab to this pass? One reason is that Punjab has been reeling under bad governments. Its politicians and their bureaucratic fellow conspirators, irrespective of party affiliations, have been among the country’s most venal and corrupt. Salwinder Singh, a Punjab superintendent of police, is alleged to have facilitated the January attack on the Pathankot airbase by Pakistani terrorists. The silence that has descended around him is understandable. According to a former Punjab director general of police, a few years ago the intelligence department had compiled a list of the state’s drug barons. This list had names of powerful politicians from every political party and police officials at every level. Salwinder Singh is only the tip of the iceberg. Unless Punjab gets a better government this slide will continue.
 
(Courtesy : www.scroll.in)
 




[home] 1-4 of 4


Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 



Why Baba Ramdev Would Do Well To Go Into Vanvaas
07.04.16 - Swami Agnivesh
Why Baba Ramdev Would Do Well To Go Into Vanvaas



Ramdev shocks me. Truly. Utterly. Un-bearably. His saffron shocks me. It makes his words all the more shocking. Saffron is the colour either of self-sacrifice or of inspired bravery. He seems light years away from both. It is blatant cowardice to say one would love to cut off the heads of millions of people but for the small inconvenience that stands in the way. There is, he laments, that irksome thing called the rule of law. He could get into trouble if he ventures to harvest a few million human heads. That, says Ramdev, chokes the heroic expression of his sterling patriotic zeal. 
 
Ramdev’s version of patriotism, please note, is choked by the law. That is to say, it is unlawful. Refraining from scandalously unlawful lusts and longings only due to fear of unpleasant consequences is cowardice. Only Ramdev can enlighten us about the meeting point between cowardice and self-sacrifice: The sort of cowardice that made him scoot from the scene of trouble in Ramlila Maidan in 2011. The adroitness with which our shape-shifting baba escaped on that occasion is of the same stuff as the insured insolence with which he threatens to annihilate fellow citizens for not falling in line.
 
I am not happy to write these words, which I have to wring out of my reluctant heart. But I must. To keep quiet in the face of such an eruption of insanity is to mock my spiritual calling. I shall have no right to appear in public clad in saffron if I do not speak up. I have to denounce the political adventurism of this friend of mine. But I shall not despise him; for the spirit of the Vedic faith that keeps me going will not let me. This noble spiritual vision puts me under obligation to love every member of the human family — including those who do not agree with me, those who do not shout "Bharat Mata ki Jai” like parrots, and also those who spew the lingo of aggression as the poetry of patriotism.
 
I denounce the words of Ramdev and urge him to apologise, first, to all Hindus and, then, to all human beings. To the extent that he has started raving and ranting, he has lost the right to take the name of the Vedic faith or pretend to be a spiritual guru. He would do well to take vanvaas for meditation and self-purification. 
 
Ramdev has been in the business of converting spirituality into material profit. He has, as a result, lost the distinction between dhandha and dharma. Religion became, in the process, the means for indulging in covetousness. The mega bucks he earned became his entry into politics. If in the Ayodhya movement, politicians used babas and swamis, Ramdev is shrewd enough to use politicians to his advantage. It is a marriage of convenience for both parties. 
 
I also hold the BJP to account in this most lamentable turn of events. I want to tell them that Hinduism is truly in peril. The cocktail of politics, corporatisation and communalism concocted under the name of Hinduism today threatens its authenticity. 
 
What Ramdev has done is criminal. He is sowing seeds of horrendous violence in the minds of unsuspecting people within an ambience of faith. This is incitement of the most dangerous kind. Knowing the outlook and agenda of the current dispensation, I have no hope that the government either at the Centre or in Haryana will take cognisance of this challenge to the rule of law and insult to the Constitution. I pray, therefore, to the chief justice of India to take suo moto cognisance of this and initiate appropriate action. 
 
Finally, a word about the senselessness that inflates Ramdev’s hollow patriotism. Does he really think that shouting a slogan — or a thousand slogans — proves anyone’s patriotism? Does he really believe that a coerced utterance carries patriotic value? Those who revel in coercing others are not interested in the motherland. They are intoxicated with power. This is not patriotism. This is poison. Every form of coercion is an insult to the spirit and substance of the Constitution. 
 
(The writer is president emeritus, World Council of Arya Samaj, and a human rights activist.) – 
 
(Courtesy : http://indianexpress.com) 




[home] 1-4 of 4


Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 



India’s finest legislation. Aborted by the political class and bureaucracy out of fear. And by you and me out of apathy
06.04.16 - preet k s bedi
India’s finest legislation. Aborted by the political class and bureaucracy out of fear. And by you and me out of apathy



1984 Delhi, 2733 dead. Only 49 convicted for murder/  2002 Gujarat, 1260 dead.  Only 225 convictions/  2013 Muzaffarnagar, 63 dead. All five judgments so far resulted in acquittal./ 2016 Haryana, 28 dead. Reports suggest police is unable to find witnesses willing to testify against their biradari.
 
The narrative has remained unchanged for decades. Tension builds up against a minority group; suddenly there is a spark and hell breaks loose. One of the first casualties is the formal chain of command. Cops and officials simply disappear or are mysteriously rendered ineffective. Once the chain of command has snapped, the riot is in full swing.
 
The fact that nothing at all has changed over the years is proof, if ever that was needed that whatever may be its advantages or disadvantages, the current  system of policing and administration ain’t working, and almost never in difficult times when security is most needed.
 
The problem in all riots and hatred-provoked incidents is that invariably the inequity in population usually extends to organs of the state particularly the extremely poorly trained and uninspired and uninspiring police force.
 
From gathering intelligence to pre-incident threats to handling of the riot to post-riot gathering of evidence to framing of charges to threatening the witnesses, the connivance between the majority population and the police is complete. It is in no one’s self and social interest to actually fight for justice. The system has no check at all for failures and lapses in this chain. 
 
Interesting that a country which has a CVC, CAG, CBI and Enforcement Department to safeguard its money has no oversight mechanism for the security of its people.
 
The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill 2011 was easily the finest piece of legislation the country did not get a chance to see.  Unfortunately, with a stupidly coined title that highlighted the communal angle and a few pointlessly provocative clauses which appear to impinge on authority of the states, it had little chance of being introduced or discussed. And thus must the country suffer.
 
The bill was based on a powerful insight that targeted violence is an avoidable systemic failure. And that failure cannot be rectified unless an objective unelected third-party maintains oversight. Because no elected person or body will dare ’annoy’ a majority grouping.
 
When the bill was introduced in 2011 and again in 2013, it suited the opposition to damn it as Hindu vs Muslim and reap electoral benefits. But the reality is that  minority groups in specific areas could belong to any religion.
 
Already we have seen targeted violence by and against Jats, Dalits, Sainis and Patels. Going forward as prosperity (and discontent) spreads, many other such caste groups will emerge as more and more people demand a share of scarce prosperity. One has to be naïve to imagine that there are no divisions in India other than the main religions.  
 
The heart of the proposal was an all-powerful National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation at the centre with similar set-ups for states. The Authority was conceived as an arms-length  mechanism available at the centre to monitor hatred mongering and violence against groups, fixing personal accountability among cops and officials, ensuring relief , rehabilitation and justice to the victims. The head was to be chosen through a process that would be similar to appointment of the heads of CBI, CVC and CAG.
 
At a broader level the Authority  took targeted violence out of the purview of day to day rioting which the country and our lawmakers now assume is acceptable collateral damage of a democracy. And gave it the focus it deserves. If almost 4000 were killed between 1984 and 2002, surely a total of 275 convictions is nonsense. 
 
The problem was the  sweeping powers proposed for the Authority. They were sure to send shivers down any spine of anyone nicely cocooned within an unfair , retrograde system weighed heavily in favor of the powerful.
 
Which politician would ever like to shake that superstructure? And so they all aganged up with a million allegations but only one real reason. That they felt their castles would be invaded.
 
Here’s what the Authority was supposed empowered to do. 
 
The mandate of the Authority stretched from collecting and acting on intelligence received by its various offices or collected suo moto to keeping an eye on hate speeches and incitement to violence to requisitioning a central body like the CBI to investigate on suspicion. While it could not demand a particular action, it could certainly approach the court for appropriate directions.
 
It had the power to summon any officer from a state without seeking  approval of the state government. Or even raid any office or home on mere suspicion. Witnesses were provided complete protection. One of the major reasons why cases involving targeted violence have poor conviction rates is that witnesses turn hostile as all of them have to finally live in the same milieu.
 
Most importantly it had the mandate to assign personal responsibility and take action against culpable officers, something that hardly ever happens in India. This would ensure a break in the cozy scratch-each-others back arrangements between politicians and the police.
 
Additionally it was mandated to decide on the nature and quantum of relief to be provided to the victims and their families. And have an oversight on the conditions in relief camps provided for the victims. This is usually an area with least focus. By the time the relief camps are set up the incident is usually off the media radar and no one really cares. Bringing accountability at this stage was important.
 
And last but not the least it had an oversight on filing of the cases, charges levied and progress on them. Much of how the guilty get away is through poor framing of charges. By focusing on this area the Authority could actually have broken the nexus between the cops who create inappropriate charges which are likely to be dropped anyway.
 
With such a sweeping mandate it is easy to see why states who barter riots away for votes would find a million ways of damning it. The UPA failed to explain the bill to the people at large. Possibly was not sure it wanted the bill to be passed since it had been the brainchild of Sonia’s NAC rather than the government.
 
By 2013, The Great Indian Intellectuals were so busy feting Mr Modi and dreaming vacuous dreams of the so-called federalism fed by the BJP that they failed to understand the power of the bill. As did people like Arvind Kejriwal and other wavers of liberty.
 
And thus the best-ever legislation aborted. We were all responsible. But come back it will. In some other form or shape. Maharashtra has recently introduced the Social Boycott Bill which is simply an extract out of this.
 
As the country gets more and more divided, central and state governments will realise the value of  The Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence Bill 2011.
 
There’s hope yet.




[home] 1-4 of 4


Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 







MOST VISITED
YOU MAY LIKE

TOPIC CLOUD

TAGS CLOUD

ARCHIVE



Copyright © 2016-2017







NEWS LETTER